Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links

Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links
A screengrab from Coca-Cola's commercial, which was released in Bangladesh on June 9, 2024. (Screengrab/YouTube)
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Updated 15 June 2024
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Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links

Uproar in Bangladesh over Coca-Cola ad denying Israel links
  • Coca-Cola has been enjoying close ties with Israel since 1960s
  • Commercial says the beverage is ‘not from that place’

DHAKA:  Coca-Cola is under fire in Bangladesh for a recent ad aiming to distance the brand from Israel in the wake of a significant boycott resulting from the war on Gaza.

The 60-second video, which first aired on Bangladeshi TV and YouTube on June 9, shows a shopkeeper interacting with a buyer who no longer drinks Coca-Cola as it comes from “that place.” The place is not named in the clip, but seconds later it becomes clear that the reference is to Israel.

The shopkeeper says that Coke “is not at all from that place” and that it “also has a factory in Palestine,” after which the reluctant buyer orders and enjoys the drink.

Social media accounts of Coca-Cola Bangladesh were soon later flooded with comments from Bangladeshis responding to the claims.

Coca-Cola Co. has been enjoying close links with Israel since the 1960s. In 1997, the company was honored by its government for “refusing to abide by the Arab League economic boycott of Israel.”

It owns dairy farms in illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley and a plant in the occupied Golan Heights.

In this context, the advert was for Bangladeshi viewers like Sohel Rahman, a businessman from Dhaka, an “attempt to fool the audience” by twisting the facts.

“Do they think the Bangladeshi people are stupid?” he said.

Sadia Ahmed, an executive from Dhaka’s Gulshan area, saw it as a “mockery” and misinformation.

“The campaign hid this information deliberately to play with the sentiments of the Bangladeshi people. The advertisers thought it would help boost its sales. But the result was the opposite,” she told Arab News. “Now, our boycotting campaign is even stronger, as Coke directly supports Israeli aggression on Palestine.”

While Coca-Cola removed the ad from its social media channels on Wednesday and no longer aired it on local TV, the video continued to make the rounds on social media, drawing comments like: “This feels desperate,” “This advertisement is trying to fool innocent people,” or “Boycott the actors too.”

Saraf Ahmed Zibon, the actor playing the main character in the ad, took to Facebook earlier this week to say he “had never been in favor of Israel” and had presented information and data that was provided to him by Coca-Cola.

The issue of Israel is very sensitive in Bangladesh, where many people say they can relate to the Palestinian struggle and resistance to Israeli occupation, and advocacy for Palestine is officially part of the country’s foreign policy.

Anything undermining the sentiment is unacceptable, especially when people “are dying every day in Gaza due to the Israeli aggression,” said Dr. Rasheda Rawnak Khan, associate professor at the Department of Anthropology of Dhaka University.

“It’s very much clear that this new Coke advertisement is political propaganda. This propaganda can’t be accepted in any case. It hurts the sentiment.”

Since the beginning of the newest Israeli onslaught on Gaza in October 2023, the Bangladeshi government and people have been repeatedly denouncing the deadly bombardment that has killed at least 37,000 Palestinians, destroyed most of the medical infrastructure in the besieged enclave, and displaced 80 percent of its population.

Part of the protest and mobilization in Bangladesh is a movement to boycott Western brands perceived as having links with Israel.

Coca-Cola’s attempt to win Bangladeshis back has resulted in the opposite.

“Coke failed to internalize the sentiment of 180 million people of Bangladesh … and made this socially and culturally (insensitive) advertisement to re-brand in the local market,” Prof. A.S.M. Amanullah, sociologist from Dhaka University, told Arab News.

“The attempt has backfired … I believe, in a couple of weeks, Coke’s sales could be reduced to 50 percent.”

Coca-Cola Bangladesh has not responded to repeated requests for comment about the commercial and its sales in the country.

A drop in demand has already been observed since October and has plunged further since the beginning of this week, with local soft drink brands coming to the fore.

“Last week, the demand was four times higher … A significant part of Coke’s annual sales used to happen during Eid Al-Adha. But this year, it seems that the total sales of Coke will fall drastically,” said Arifur Rahman, a grocery store owner at Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

“Usually, during summer, we used to sell a huge amount of Coke. But the demand started to decline from the beginning of the Gaza attack. The boycott campaign dealt a blow to Coke’s selling graph. Nowadays, people hardly ask for Coke. Instead, they are opting for different local colas.”


Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base
Updated 5 sec ago
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Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the Taliban's deputy head of mission on Wednesday and urged their administration to take action against Afghanistan-based militant groups that Islamabad says attacked a military base this week.
Militants attacked the base in Bannu in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing eight Pakistani security force members.


Bangladesh’s government raids opposition HQ and asks universities to close after 6 die in protests

Bangladesh’s government raids opposition HQ and asks universities to close after 6 die in protests
Updated 13 min 37 sec ago
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Bangladesh’s government raids opposition HQ and asks universities to close after 6 die in protests

Bangladesh’s government raids opposition HQ and asks universities to close after 6 die in protests
  • Dhaka University, at the center of the violence, decided to suspend classes and close its dormitories indefinitely

DHAKA: Authorities in Bangladesh urged all universities to close on Wednesday, the day after at least six people died in violent protests over the allocation of government jobs and police raided the headquarters of the main opposition party.
Dhaka University, at the center of the violence, decided to suspend classes and close its dormitories indefinitely, a university official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.
The University Grants Commission asked all public and private universities to close until further notice, in order to protect students, but the request did not have legal force and it was not immediately clear how many universities would comply.
Authorities said that at least six people were killed on Tuesday in violence across the country as student protesters clashed with pro-government student activists and with police, and violence was reported around the capital, Dhaka, the southeastern city of Chattogram and the northern city of Rangpur.
Overnight, Dhaka police raided the headquarters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, accusing it of playing a role in the violence.
Detective chief Harun-or-Rashid told reporters that police had arrested seven members of the party’s student wing in connection with two buses that were set on fire Tuesday. He added that detectives found 100 crude bombs, 500 wooden and bamboo sticks, and five to six bottles of gasoline in the raid.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior BNP leader, accused the government of “staging” the raid to divert attention from protests.
On Wednesday, police clashed with BNP supporters in Dhaka’s Paltan area after a funeral ritual for the six people who died Tuesday.
Police official Sentu Mia said they used rubber bullets to disperse the opposition activists after they attacked police, and several opposition activists were arrested.
BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir accused police of barring their supporters from the funeral prayers.
On Wednesday, stray protests took place at Dhaka University and elsewhere in the country. Police were deployed on the campus, while paramilitary border forces patrolled the streets in Dhaka and other big cities.
A senior leader of the ruling Awami League party said the opposition was using the protests as a weapon against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Obaidul Quader, the Awami League’s general secretary and a senior Cabinet minister, said that “evil forces” have taken over the student movement, blaming the student wings of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and right wing Jamaat-e-Islami party for Tuesday’s violence.
He urged the protesters to have patience until the country’s Supreme Court hears petitions involving the quota issues next month.
The protests began late last month, demanding an end to a quota that reserves 30 percent of government jobs for relatives of veterans of Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence in 1971, but turned violent on Monday as protesters at Dhaka University clashed with police and counter-protests organized by the student wing of the governing Awami League party, leaving 100 people injured.
Violence spread overnight to Jahangir Nagar University in Savar, outside Dhaka, and was reported elsewhere around the country on Tuesday.
Protesters argue the veterans’ families quota is discriminatory, and argue it benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement. Ruling party leaders accuse the opposition of backing the protests. Protesters have said they are apolitical.
The quota system also reserves government jobs for women, disabled people and membesr of ethnic minorities, but protesters have only sought to end the quota for families of veterans.
While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh’s private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are seen as stable and high-paying. Each year, nearly 400,000 graduates compete for 3,000 such jobs in the civil service exam.
The quota system was temporarily halted in 2018, following a court order that followed an earlier wave of mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision, angering students and triggering renewed protests.
Last week, the Supreme Court suspended the High Court’s order for four weeks, as the chief justice asked students to return to classes. But the protests continued.
Hasina defended the quota system Tuesday, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect for their sacrifice in 1971 regardless of their current political affiliation.
“Abandoning the dream of their own life, leaving behind their families, parents and everything, they joined the war with whatever they had,” she said during an event at her office in Dhaka.
Hasina maintained power in an election in January that was boycotted by opposition parties and saw opposition members jailed ahead of the polls.
Her Awami League party, under her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, led the independence war with the help of India. Rahman was assassinated along with many family members in a military coup in 1975.


Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams
Updated 15 min 31 sec ago
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Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

MANILA: Women have topped this year’s Shariah Bar examinations in the Philippines, with Supreme Court data showing that female examinees not only obtained the best score but also had the highest passing rate.

Shariah, or Islamic law, is partially implemented in the Philippines, applicable only to the Muslim community — about 10 percent of the 120 million of the country’s predominantly Catholic population.

A total of 853 candidates took part in the Shariah Bar exam in April and May, and 183 passed it. More than half of those who passed the exams were women, nine of whom were among the top 10 scorers.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh announced the results on Tuesday, saying that “62.3 percent of the total passers are female. I’m very happy to announce that.”

This year’s exam also saw the “largest number of Shariah Bar examinees we have had in nearly 40 years,” Singh said.

“This is to strengthen and make the Shariah justice system more accessible by encouraging and giving more opportunities to aspiring Shariah councilors.”

Separate from the regular Bar tests for aspiring lawyers, the Shariah Bar exams are the professional licensure examination covering Islamic law for Shariah court councilor candidates.

Established under the 1977 Code of Muslim Personal Laws, the Islamic law courts are under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court and have jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as well as other parts of the southern Mindanao island, which have significant Muslim populations.

The courts have application over personal status law, including marriage, as well as financial laws and halal certification.

The Supreme Court said last year that in its goal to “strengthen the Shariah justice system” under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027, it was studying the possibility of expanding the mandate of Islamic courts to cover also criminal and commercial cases.


King Charles sets out new Labour government’s priorities

King Charles sets out new Labour government’s priorities
Updated 52 min 33 sec ago
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King Charles sets out new Labour government’s priorities

King Charles sets out new Labour government’s priorities
  • Charles reads out laws the government is prioritizing after Labour Party won a large majority at this month’s election
  • The king’s speech, written by the government, also tried to set a new tone to British politics

LONDON: Britain’s King Charles began setting out Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s legislative agenda on Wednesday, promising a government of service focused on the principles of security, fairness and opportunity for all.
In a ceremony full of pageantry, before an audience of robed lords and lawmakers, Charles read out the laws the government is prioritizing after Starmer’s center-left Labour Party won a large majority at this month’s election.
The package of more than 35 bills will focus on growing the economy, reforming planning laws to make it easier to build homes and speeding up the delivery of major infrastructure projects, improving transport and creating jobs.
The king’s speech, written by the government, also tried to set a new tone to British politics, promoting service rather than self-interest, something that Labour says took root over 14 years of often chaotic Conservative Party rule.
“My government will govern in service to the country,” said Charles, wearing a crimson and white robe and the Imperial State crown.
“My government’s legislative program will be mission-led and based on the principles of security, fairness and opportunity for all.”
Starmer won one of the largest parliamentary majorities in modern British history on July 4, making him the most powerful national leader since former prime minister Tony Blair.
But he faces a number of daunting challenges, including improving struggling public services with little room for more spending.


FACTBOX-India’s economy poised for robust growth ahead of annual budget

FACTBOX-India’s economy poised for robust growth ahead of annual budget
Updated 17 July 2024
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FACTBOX-India’s economy poised for robust growth ahead of annual budget

FACTBOX-India’s economy poised for robust growth ahead of annual budget
  • India’s economy is expanding at the fastest rate among major emerging economies and tax receipts are higher
  • Budget is expected to see an increase in spending on infrastructure and welfare programs such as rural housing

NEW DELHI: India’s economy is expanding at the fastest rate among major emerging economies, and tax receipts are higher, factors that could prompt Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to increase spending in the new 2024/25 budget that will be presented to parliament on July 23.
The budget is expected to see an increase in spending on infrastructure and welfare programs such as rural housing, following bumper dividend payouts from the central bank and increased tax revenue. However, Sitharaman is likely to adhere to the interim budget’s fiscal deficit targets.
Here are some facts about India’s economy:
ECONOMIC GROWTH
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has upgraded its growth forecast for the fiscal year 2024/25 to 7.2 percent, up from 7 percent, driven by a resurgence in private consumption, robust investment, and a rebound in exports.

Similarly, the International Monetary Fund has revised India’s growth forecast to 7 percent for 2024/25 from 6.8 percent, aligning with recent updates from rating agencies and private economists.
S&P expects India’s economy will grow at nearly 7 percent annually over the next three years. INFLATION
Retail inflation in India has eased to around 5 percent from over 7 percent in 2022. Still, food inflation remains persistently high at around 9 percent, impacting rural and low-income urban households. This persistent inflation, coupled with minimal growth in real wages, is dampening expectations for early interest rate cuts by the RBI.
FISCAL DEFICIT

India’s federal fiscal deficit, which exceeded 9 percent of GDP during the pandemic, is projected to remain around 5 percent for the current fiscal year.
However, the combined federal and state fiscal deficits are estimated at 7.9 percent of GDP, reflecting a large debt stock and high-interest burden that constrain the capacity for increased state spending.

HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT
Despite a rebound in employment in manufacturing and services, high unemployment among the educated youth remains a challenge for Asia’s third-largest economy.
The unemployment rate for urban youth aged 15-29 was 17 percent in the first quarter of March, with private agencies suggesting that the actual rate may be higher.

India’s overall unemployment rate has remained much higher over the decades than China, according to International Labour Organization estimates, with millions remaining stuck in low-paying agriculture and informal sector jobs. INTERNATIONAL TRADE

India’s goods and services exports are on an upward trajectory, despite concerns over a global slowdown and geopolitical risks.
Exports are projected to reach $800 billion in the current fiscal year ending March 2025, up from $778.2 billion in the previous fiscal year.
Rising services exports and private transfer receipts have helped India’s current account balance, which is showing a $5.7 billion surplus for the first time in 10 quarters in three months through March.